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  • Writer's pictureanusha gopalakrishnan

Discovering Al Salt: The most underrated city in Jordan

Tevan and I enjoy exploring; be it in our own backyard or some place in a faraway land; our interest extends to food, people and local culture. Something about discovering new things fascinates us. Al Salt was never exactly on our radar until we heard about it from a few people who said that this city is worth a visit. So when a friend of ours offered to show us around Al Salt we where thrilled as there is no better way to see a city than with a local.

Al-Salt, also known simply as Salt is located in northwestern Jordan, about 35 kilometers (22 miles) west of the capital city, Amman. Al -Salt is one of Jordan's oldest cities and has a rich history dating back to the Ottoman Empire. This city is renowned for its well-preserved 19th-century Ottoman architecture.

We made our way to this quaint city on a lovely Thursday afternoon. The weather was pleasant and it took us all of 50 minutes to get there. We would have reached sooner if it were not for the weekend traffic. We drove through a scenic route and spotted beautiful villas along the way.

Al Salt is a beautiful city that lives both in the past and the present. You will feel as though you have been transported back in time to the Ottoman era as soon as you set foot in the city center. The traditional homes, historical buildings, and narrow cobblestoned alleys give the city a rustic charm.

We did not have a set itinerary for the day; we just went where the day took us or rather where our friend, Kareem took us. Lol

Our first stop was the Al-Salt Historical Museum or better known as Abu Jaber House which is located in the city center. Unfortunately, the museum was closed by the time we arrived. It was a bummer but there is always next time!

There was a little souvenir shop next door selling all kinds of things from handicrafts to antique pieces. We bought a fridge magnet to remember our trip.

Before long we could hear our tummies rumbling indicating that it was time to eat. So next on our agenda was FOOD. We weaved through narrow alleys and along cobblestoned walkways marveling at the old heritage homes and historic yellow stone buildings.

We made many pit stops along the way thanks to my compulsive need to take photos of my travels. Tucked away on unsuspecting alleys are really old homes with beautiful ancient doors. I often wonder what lies behind those doors.

The route we were on led us to Hamam Street, my favorite part of the city, where the local souq is located. Named after a Turkish Bath, it is also the oldest and most vibrant street in the city of Salt.

The smell of fresh fruits linger in the air as you enter the souq and it was bustling with activity; you will find vendors selling a variety of things such as fresh produce, meat, spices, perfume, dates, gold, and a host of other things that one could possibly need. The locals are kind and generous with their smiles. Watching the locals go about their daily lives is always a treat.

We took a leisurely stroll along the souq and reached what seemed like a never-ending flight of stairs which led us to Beit Aziz; a beautiful family mansion that has been converted into an elegant restaurant and boutique hotel.

The house has a traditional Arabic architectural style and features high ceilings, ornate details, traditional patterned tile terrazzo floor and large wooden doors and windows. The exterior of the house is decorated with intricate stonework and carvings, making it one of the most significant and well-preserved examples of Ottoman architecture in As-Salt

We opted to sit in the terrace to get a good view of As-Salt’s vibrant downtown area - the atmosphere was breathtaking and calming at the same time. You have to experience it yourself to truly understand what I mean. Life is a lot slower here compared to Amman and the people here are so warm and welcoming that it evokes a sense of belonging. It was refreshing to see people taking the time to stop and have a conversation with one another and to watch children play carefree on the streets; their faces beaming with genuine happiness.

By the time the food arrived, we were all so famished that we devoured the food in silence for the first few minutes. We ordered an assortment of Jordanian mezze which consisted of fresh salads, moutabal, fateh, meat stuffed in grape leaves, and a few other dishes. Everything was fork-licking good and I particularly enjoyed mopping up these various delicious flavors with their freshly made flatbread. It was just DIVINE! All this food talk is making me so hungry. Lol

After eating we took a tour of the establishment; the staff were so kind to show us around. There is a small gallery within the establishment that showcases paintings by local artists and some locally produced needlework.

The heritage rooms built in 1905 have an old-world charm but with all the comfort that one would need.

With our bellies full; we ventured again into the city. Al Salt is predominately built on three main hills which contributes to it mountainous topography of the city; making it perfect to burn some of the post-meal calories. We climbed more stairs and arrived at Al Khader Street. Along the way, we were rewarded with precious views of the hills.

Upon arrival, we were treated to a charming view of mustard-colored buildings with doors painted in a pretty shade of blue. Unfortunately, the iconic Jordan Heritage was closed on that day - so we just took photos outside and left.

Protip: Avoid visiting Al Salt on Friday as most shops and historical sites are closed on this day.

Al Khader Church is located just a few steps away. This ancient church was built in a cave in 1682, this little gem will enhance your Salt visit. It’s one of the smallest Orthodox churches in Jordan but the art and décor are immense. The entrance fee is one dinar.

Our final stop for the day was Aktham’s 1881 Coffeehouse. The café is situated in the Daoud family’s house, which was constructed way back in 1881. As you step inside, you’ll immediately be awestruck by the café’s distinctive allure. The original tiled floor and stone niches are incredible features that add to the warm and inviting ambiance of the place.

I highly recommend that you have a drink here if you are in town. It was really a perfect place to wrap up the trip - city bustling below us, warm beverages in our hands, wind in our faces, surrounded by amazing company, and not forgetting the call of prayer reverberating in the background. The entire setting was serene and just wonderful.

Getting to Salt

To get from Salt to Amman, you can use various modes of transportation, depending on your preferences and budget. Here are several options for traveling between the two cities:

  1. Car Rental: If you prefer flexibility and convenience, you can rent a car in Salt and drive to Amman. Jordan has a good road network, and the journey should take around 30 minutes, depending on traffic. I personally recommend this option.

  2. Uber or Careem: Ride-sharing services like Uber and Careem operate in Amman. You can use their apps to request a ride from Salt to Amman.

  3. Private Shuttle Service: Some hotels and travel agencies offer shuttle services between Salt and Amman. This option may be more comfortable but could be more expensive.

Once you are in Salt, the best way to get around the city is by foot. Simply wander the city and soak up the sights - trust me you will not regret it!

Best time to Visit Salt

Ultimately, the best time to visit Salt and Amman depends on your preferences for weather and the type of activities you want to do. If you want to explore historical sites and enjoy outdoor adventures, spring and autumn are ideal. However, if you prefer to avoid crowds and don't mind the heat or cold, you can consider visiting during the summer or winter, respectively.

Where to stay

Here are a couple of accommodation options if you planning an overnight stay in Salt:

Click on the link for more information

Finally, I will leave you with an interesting factoid; In 2021, the city of Salt was inscribed at the UNESCO World Heritage list making it the sixth Jordanian landmark to be declared a World Heritage Site. Isn't this amazing!

Therefore, if you are ever planning to visit Jordan, be sure to include this charming city in your itinerary.

Till my next adventure, Toodles!

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